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CNN Today

Yugoslavian Government Claims It Is Not Responsible for Arkan's Murder

Aired January 19, 2000 - 2:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In Belgrade, the Yugoslavian government is trying to shoot down rampant rumors that it may have played a part in the murder of the infamous paramilitary leader known as Arkan. We have that story from CNN's Alessio Vinci in Belgrade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yugoslav officials say they detained one of Arkan's suspected killers, who was wounded during the attack and is now under police guard at a hospital outside Belgrade. The man, whose name was not released, is said to be unconscious and police were not able to interrogate him. A second suspect, officials say, is still at large.

Many immediately speculated that Arkan may have been the victim of a political assassination: a man who knew a lot about whether top Yugoslav leaders were uninvolved in atrocities in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

But the news of the arrest, prominently reported by the state- controlled newspaper "Politika," appears to be a move by Belgrade authorities to deny any involvement in Arkan's killing by suggesting the state is making progress in the investigation.

But Belgrade newspapers also report that Arkan knew his killers, raising some concerns about what has become a dangerous pattern.

DUSAN RADULOVIC, JOURNALIST: The assassination of Arkan maybe is underlying the point that nobody's safe. You maybe Arkan, you maybe Kundac (ph), you may be Badga, but if somebody decides that you have to go, you go.

VINCI: Kundac, Badga, Dref (ph): The list is long. Names of former police officials, politicians and businessmen, all people who felt they were safe because they were believed to be close to the highest levels of power: people who walked along Yugoslavia's thin line between business and politics in a country where most say no business is possible without political contacts.

Arkan had many friends on all levels of power in Yugoslavia with close ties to Serbian intelligence and state security. But he also was a war profiteer, somebody with along and brutal history, a criminal who analysts believe lately tried to legitimize and perhaps expand his business too far.

RADULOVIC: Maybe he stepped on somebody's foot. Maybe he made a step forward and maybe he did something that was unforgivable. Maybe he didn't even know that he had done something, which was the main reason why he's now -- now dead.

VINCI: But finding out who is responsible for Arkan's death will not be easy.

(on camera): Officials here say this time they have a witness that will help them solve the case, but it is a witness who so far cannot talk.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Belgrade.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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